United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
H. Payne United States District Judge
the Court is Defendant Federal Insurance Company's Motion
to Dismiss (Doc. No. 18). After consideration of the briefs,
and for the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss is GRANTED.
James Byron Richie (“Plaintiff”) filed this
action in state court against his insurers, Defendants
Federal Insurance Company (“Federal”) and Great
Northern Insurance Company (Great Northern”). In the
Amended Petition, Plaintiff alleges causes of action against
the defendants for breach of the implied duty to deal in good
faith and breach of contract. (Doc. No. 2, Ex. 1). Plaintiff
alleges damage to his roof occurred as a result of a
hailstorm in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in April 2014. (Id.
¶ 10). When Plaintiff learned of the damage in 2016, he
filed a claim with his insurance company, but he has obtained
no action from the defendants, leading to this action.
(Id. ¶¶ 11-14). The defendants removed the
action to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction. (Doc.
No. 2). Federal has now moved to dismiss the Amended Petition
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept all
well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true, and must
construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
See Anderson v. Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith,
Inc., 521 F.3d 1278, 1284 (10th Cir. 2008). To withstand
a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain enough
allegations of fact “to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The Tenth Circuit has
stated that “plausibility” in this context refers
“to the scope of the allegations in the complaint: if
they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of
conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs ‘have
not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to
plausible.'” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d
1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. at 569). The plaintiff bears the burden to frame
“a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true)
to suggest” that he or she is entitled to relief.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. “A pleading that
offers ‘labels and conclusions' or a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders
‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual
enhancement.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555,
argues it cannot be liable to Plaintiff for either breach of
contract or bad faith, because it has no contractual
relationship with Plaintiff. In the Amended Petition,
Plaintiff alleges both “Defendants” breached
their duty to act in good faith and breached their contract
with Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 2, Ex. 1, at ¶¶ 15-23).
However, Federal argues only Great Northern wrote the policy
and entered into the insurance contract with Plaintiff. In
support, Federal attaches the insurance policy contract
between Plaintiff and Great Northern, which shows Policy No.
13986534-03 was issued by Great Northern for January 23,
2014, to January 23, 2015. (Doc. No. 18-1).
Oklahoma law, contracts are binding only upon those who are
parties to the contract, and are enforceable only by the
parties to a contract, or those in privity with it, unless
the contract is made for the express benefit of a third
party. Drummond v. Johnson, 643 P.2d 634, 639 (Okla.
1982). Likewise, a bad faith claim may be made only against a
party to the insurance contract, not against an agent who is
not a party to the contract. Timmons v. Royal Globe Ins.
Co., 653 P.2d 907, 912-13 (Okla. 1982); see United
Adjustment Servs., Inc. v. Prof'l Insurors Agency,
LLC, 307 P.3d 400, 405 (Okla.Civ.App. 2013)
(“Oklahoma law clearly provides that an insured cannot
bring a bad faith claim against an insurance agency or its
agent because they are not parties to the insurance
contract.”). The implied duty to deal in good faith,
which is nondelegable, arises as a result of the special
relationship existing between an insurer and an insured.
Wather v. Mut. Assur. Adm'rs Inc., 87 P.3d 559,
561-62 (Okla. 2004). This duty of good faith applies to the
claims-handling process. Id. at 562.
case, Plaintiff alleges he purchased the subject insurance
policy from Chubb, and the policy was issued by Great
Northern. (Doc. No. 2, Ex. 1, ¶ 6). Plaintiff alleges
the policy was renewed by Chubb on or about January 23, 2014,
and again, issued by Great Northern. (Id. ¶ 8).
Plaintiff further alleges he “submitted a claim to his
insurance company on the 8th day of March, 2016, ” but
“almost four months' post claim, there has been no
action taken by the defendant Chubb.” (Id.
¶¶ 13-14). The policy confirms that Great Northern
was the issuer. (See Doc. No. 18-1, at 1). The
policy plainly states it “is a contract between you and
us” (Doc. No. 18-1, at 14), and the
“Definitions” section defines “you”
as “the person named in the Coverage Summary, and a
spouse who lives with that person” and “us”
as “the insurance company named in the Coverage
Summary, ” which is identified as Great Northern
(id. at 6, 14).
does not allege facts sufficient to establish that a contract
existed between Plaintiff and Federal. To the contrary, the
Amended Petition alleges Great Northern issued the subject
policy. Moreover, Plaintiff's allegation that
“Defendants” entered into a contract to provide
homeowner's insurance to Plaintiff (Doc. No. 2, Ex. 1,
¶21) is insufficient to state a claim, because it
contradicts the allegation that Great Northern issued the
policy (id. ¶ 6) and fails to allege that
Federal was the insurance carrier. Therefore, Plaintiff's
causes of action for breach of contract and breach of the
implied duty to deal in good faith both fail with respect to
Response brief, Plaintiff does not challenge Federal's
argument that the policy was issued by Great Northern, but
rather argues that Chubb is the carrier because the cover
letter to the policy renewal refers to the “renewal of
your insurance policy with Chubb” and further states,
“Relax. You're insured by Chubb.”
(See Doc. No. 20-1, at 2). Plaintiff also points out
that the policy appears on “Chubb” letterhead.
Plaintiff argues his Amended Petition provides sufficient
allegations as to Federal, and any confusion as to the
correct entities involved arises from the Defendants' own
contract. However, the cited correspondence cannot overcome
the plain and unambiguous language of the subject policy,
which shows that Great Northern and Plaintiff are the only
parties to the contract. Moreover, this correspondence
expressly states that “[a]ctual coverage is subject to
the language of the policy, ” which indicates that the
correspondence is not itself a contract. (Doc. No. 20-1, at
2). Nor does the use of the Chubb letterhead on the policy
document create a contractual relationship between Federal
and Plaintiff. None of the documents attached to the Response
suggest a contractual relationship existed between Plaintiff
reasons detailed above, Defendant Federal Insurance
Company's Motion ...